If the commitments made in the first week of the United Nation's (UN) 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) are delivered, they would help cut only 9 gigatons of annual carbon emissions (CO2), falling short of the 22 gigatons reduction needed to keep the 1.5°C climate goal alive, according to new research by the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) on Friday.
In a business as usual pathway, annual CO2 emissions in 2030 would total 43 gigatons, based on a Climate Action Tracker analysis.
However, to keep on a pathway to achieve 1.5°C, it is estimated that annual CO2 emissions in 2030 need to fall by around 22 gigatons down to 21 gigatons.
If the commitments in the first week of the COP26 are realized, the emission gap would be down by only 9 gigatons, with a shortfall of 13 gigatons.
Leading into COP26, national decarbonization pledges and nationally determined contributions (NDCs), made as part of the Paris Agreement, fell far short of keeping the planet’s average temperature rise within 1.5°C.
The estimated 9 gigatons figure is based on the successful delivery of action in three areas, including the NDCs, which would contribute to lower carbon emissions by 3 gigatons by 2030, deforestation and coal to clean power transition by contributing 3.7 gigatons.
In addition, country, company and financial sector commitments, including those made as part of the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign have the potential to deliver an additional 2.5 gigatons.
As part of the Global Methane Pledge, if the reductions are fulfilled, methane emissions would also see 50 million tons of reduction by 2030.
ETC's chair Lord Adair Turner said during the announcement of the research at the “Destination 2030” event at the summit that the commitments are a big step forward for nature with a commitment to end deforestation, which, if supported by appropriate finance and delivered, would itself result in 3.5 gigatons of emissions reductions.
Turner hypothesized that a saving of 3.5 gigatons could be made by 2030 if no new coal plants are opened anywhere and if older existing coal plants begin to be phased out in the 2020s.
“The Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement commitments are a step in that direction with coal-dependent countries from across the world – from Poland and Ukraine to Vietnam and Indonesia making important new commitments,” he said.
However, he warned that with the absence of signatories from big emitters, India and China, and with commitments focused on the 2030s and 40s, the delivery of only a small 0.2 gigatons of the 3.5 gigatons potential could be made.
He conceded that this is good progress but still not enough even with further progress next week.
“We are not going to achieve the full 22 gigatons we need; we’re not going to be able to go home from Glasgow saying job done. We can achieve and we must achieve that,” he said.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya and Gulsen Cagatay in Glasgow, Scotland